Wizards of the Coast didn’t just give up.
I’m trying not to be a Debbie Downer about this whole D&D Open Game License debate. In fact, I’ve been doing my best not to say anything that might jinx it. Family, I’m sorry. I’m still staring at the chalkboard because something just doesn’t quite add up about this whole affair.
Yes, we should cherish this as a victory for #OpenDnD and I am truly happy that System Reference Document 5.1 is now under Creative Commons License. I am filled with joy that we can continue on with OGL 1.0a in perpetuity, creating “Old School” Dungeons & Dragons content for 3.5 and 5E. It’s great. Truly, I’m celebrating it as a big win for us- i.e. the fans and content creators.
What’s a group of weasels called?
WotC? Maybe it’s Hasbro? The real answer is, “boogle” or more importantly, a “sneak.” As in, they’re sneaky.
I find it a bit tough to believe that anyone stupid or cunning enough to turn the entire TTRPG industry on its ear for most of January would just roll over and give up,. It’s too easy. Yes, they were under significant pressure with the cancellation of D&D Beyond subscriptions. Yeah, the fans were super irritated with WotC. Supposedly WotC reacted to feedback from the community.
I have serious trust issues with large corporations. Truthfully, having lived through the 1980s and being fired by one, I just can’t bring myself to ever trust a corporation again. I’m aware of what it sounds like. I can’t believe or trust anything WotC says until certain executives are gone. Even then, I’ll always have doubts.
Huzzah! The OSR is saved. Case closed. Right?
I’m taking some grief on Twitter because I have a lot of conspiracy theories surrounding WotC and the Great OGL Debacle of 2023. Remember, I’m only crazy until I’m correct. The term “conspiracy” was cooked up by a certain government department that wanted it to have a negative connotation.
Sure, we can theoretically keep making Old School Renaissance/Revival/Regrowth/Re-whatever until Hell itself freezes over. And that’s great. People might not realize it yet, but 5E pretty much became part of the OSR the day One D&D was announced. (If you listen closely, you can hear the old fartz starting to panic at that notion.) WotC’s endgame was never about prior editions. They’ve already made it clear.
Yes, mission accomplished. We can keep making older edition stuff forever under OGL 1.0a and SRD 5.1 CC-BY-4.0. That’s lovely. WotC theoretically threw us a bone. Reasons why will likely remain a mystery.
Remember, WotC “doesn’t see editions any more.”
Yeah. Because they want One D&D to be the only game we’ll ever play as far as they’re concerned. (*My opinion.) The heck with all those older editions. One D&D with its big, gnarly, fancy-shmancy digital platform is where it’s at now don’t cha know?
The reasons WotC gave in look spontaneous. Sure, maybe it’s the fans. Maybe it was Hasbro. Maybe it was all those cancelled DDB subs. OR maybe they’ve got another plan. There are a LOT of things WotC has not addressed yet.
I’ll play angel’s advocate for a minute. Hasbro was under a lot of pressure to deal with WotC. Hasbro stocks took a dip. Media attention was on the OGL for a minute. The new D&D movie, Honor Among Thieves is coming out. Critical Role was getting some attention from Amazon. Cynthia Williams and Chris Cao are still pulling the strings.
Oh look. Smoke & Mirrors.
WotC gave us the old pen and paper D&D on a platter. Sure, make all the OGL stuff we want. BUT- What if, just what if, that was never their endgame? They want One D&D to be the only Virtual TableTop in the industry. They want One D&D to be a lifestyle brand. D&D players are their cash cow.
What if they aren’t worried about the OGL because they have ways around it? Sure, make all the OGL stuff we want. Plaster “5E” on everything. What if Wizards of the Coast owns, or is planning to own OneBookShelf and Roll 20? What if WotC went out of their way to make sure the new D&D Beyond website was pretty much the only way to purchase old D&D pdfs?
Rumor has it that Chris Cao, one of the guys pulling the strings at WotC, doesn’t even see physical books as a concern going forward. He thinks they’re just nostalgia. Merely collector’s items. Chris Cao hasn’t even played D&D as far as we know. He thinks it’s like a mobile app or a computer game. (*according to WotC employees.)
What if WotC is planning to squeeze out Friendly Local Game Stores, Amazon, and independent book dealers? WotC wants to make it so all roads lead back to their new digital platform. Think about what it might do to the TTRPG industry if Hasbro or WotC has a veritable monopoly on electronic and physical book distribution.
Itch.io and Paizo.com are going to get more traffic. Great. All of our indie games and content that used to be on DriveThruRPG.com and DMsGuild.com might have to go through WotC or a website owned by Hasbro. More money in the corporation’s pockets. We can create all the content we want, but if we want to sell it, we’d have to either do it piecemeal all over the internet or go through WotC.
Just what if all those Hasbro layoffs were used to free up some capital available for the purchase on OneBookshelf? Sounds kinda far out. Then again, if Linda Codega hadn’t broken the story about OGL 1.1, none of us would believe the reality WotC would have had us living in back in early January. Put nothing past WotC at this point.
It’s all just my opinion, speculation, and conjecture.
Make what you will of it. I still think we’re getting played by Wizards of the Coast. I think Williams and Cao are smarter than we give them credit for. I think Chris Cocks at Hasbro is smarter than we give him credit for.
I hope I’m wrong about all of this. We almost witnessed the collapse of our beloved hobby industry. We could still be fighting just to keep the OGL alive. I’m just thinking of the journey from the travesty that was OGL 1.1 to where we are now. How is WotC going to recover?
Sure, maybe D&D Beyond gets a few subscribers back. According to the rumors, Chris Cao doesn’t even like DDB. The new Unreal Engine powered VTT and accompanying website are supposed to replace it anyway. New platform, new subscriptions. D&D Beyond will soon be a decaying relic.
Sure, maybe they sell a few more movie tickets to Honor Among Thieves. Maybe Hasbro saves face on with Paramount. I mean, I’m not going, but maybe somebody will.
Sure, maybe WotC saved face with the fans. They might even sell some of those “collector’s books” they’re putting out. And maybe DMsGuild continues to sell those pesky pdfs to keep the cattle, err…fans happy as far as the stockholders are concerned. Maybe Hasbro stocks will stabilize next quarter.
Darn straight I don’t trust WotC. We all need to remain vigilant. I’m telling you, family, it ain’t over yet. Sure, #OpenDnD won the day. Hallelujah. But we ain’t done with WotC’s shenanigans.
Thanks for stopping by and humoring me with all of my crazy ideas. I promise we really are going to get back to gaming. The dust will settle eventually and we can have some fun. I appreciate you.